What is the Saskatchewan Municipal Board?
The actions of government agencies affect every aspect of our lives,
from what we eat to the appropriate levels of compensation for work-related
injuries. The government makes laws. The authority to carry out
or administer these laws is delegated to various government ministers,
departments and agencies. Government agencies are given authority
to set policies and make decisions about how the law will be carried
out. This area of the law is called administrative law. Administrative
tribunals, such as the Saskatchewan Municipal Board (SMB), are generally
involved in deciding issues of a regulatory or judicial nature.
Tribunals exist for two major reasons. First, they are set up to resolve issues specific to regulations governing an activity or industry. In the case of the
SMB, the tribunal was set up for regulatory and judicial purposes in dealing with issues from local authorities (school divisions and municipal governments).
The board's regulatory function is to review the debt obligations of some local authorities and oversee the financial health of municipalities. The judicial
function is to hear and determine, at the provincial level, appeals from the public in municipal matters relating to property tax assessments, municipal
planning and development issues, noxious weed orders, and to adjudicate in matters relating to road maintenance and fixed farmland assessment agreements.
The second reason for their existence is to provide a cost effective method of litigation to unburden the court system.
The SMB was created on October 1, 1988. The Municipal Board Act
provided for consolidation of the former Saskatchewan Local Government
Board, Saskatchewan Assessment Appeals Board, Provincial Planning
Appeals Board, and Saskatchewan Municipal Boundary Commission.
What does the Board do?
The SMB is legislatively mandated and is empowered to exercise discretion
of a regulatory and judicial nature. The board is to ensure financial
credibility for cities, towns, villages, northern and rural municipalities
and school divisions, and ensure appeals respecting planning, assessment,
fire prevention, municipal boundary, and conservation and development
are heard and decided.
The major activities of the board are as follows:
- Provide a service to the general public and municipalities by
hearing appeals at the provincial level on matters that require
specialized knowledge. Common matters of appeal include planning
and development; assessed value of real property; local improvement
assessment; tax exempt status of a property; conservation and
development area authority property assessments; and orders and
certificates issued by the provincial fire commissioner’s
- Review local authorities’ long term debt applications
for approval, to ensure financial stability and, to provide assurance
of the local authority’s financial stability to taxpayers
- Provide advice and approvals to local authorities on capital
financing, debt management, investment of surplus funds, utility rates and
- Provide a service to municipalities by reviewing applications
for alteration of municipal boundaries or amalgamation of municipalities
where there is a disagreement over the alteration or amalgamation.
How does the Board fulfill its mandate?
The board fulfills the majority of its mandate through "working"
committees, all of which interact with municipal governments. Some
of these committees are:
To carry out its responsibilities to hear and decide certain matters, the Board is often required to
conduct public hearings where the parties can present their respective positions to the Board.
In its publication "Practice Essentials for Administrative Tribunals", the office of Ombudsman Saskatchewan describes three hearing models:
- ADVERSARIAL HEARING MODEL
The process used by courts in Canada is known as the adversarial hearing model. In an adversarial
model, parties are set in opposition to one another. The decision-maker depends on this opposition
between the parties to reveal information necessary to decide the case. The parties present evidence
and argument to the decision-maker who uses it to decide what happened in the case and what the
outcome should be.
- INQUIRY-BASED HEARING MODEL
An inquiry-based hearing model is an alternative to an adversarial hearing model.
In an inquiry-based model, the decision-maker actively seeks out the evidence to decide the case by
questioning parties who may have relevant information. The decision-maker is responsible for leading
the questioning and gathering the evidence.
- HYBRID HEARING MODEL
The inquiry-based and adversarial hearing models are not completely separate. Many tribunals adopt
a model with process steps that look more like the adversarial model, but with characteristics of an
inquiry-based model such as the tribunal leading the questioning process. This model is known as a
hybrid hearing model.
For some of the committees, like the Assessment Appeals Committee, Planning Appeals Committee and the
Fire Prevention Appeals Committee, there usually has been an initial hearing before another tribunal and
therefore a factual record already exists. For the most part, the Board will rely on the evidence found
in this record and hear argument from the parties to support that evidence and their positions.
For committees like the Municipal Boundary Committee and the Local Government Committee, the hearings
are a more open forum where the Board gathers the necessary information to help it decide the issue at
The Board recognizes that many persons appearing before a panel are not experienced in such matters and
accordingly, the hearing structure is often adapted to suit the particular situation, therefore the
hearings are at best, based on the Hybrid Model. Please note that for Planning, Assessment and Fire
hearings, the format leans towards an Adversarial Model. For Boundaries and Local Government, the
hearings are more of an Inquiry Model as, through its application processes, the Board takes the
leading role in identifying the information needed to lead to a decision.
Other duties of the board include:
- Resolving disputes where an agreement to fix the assessed value
or property taxes on farm land in an urban municipality cannot
As a government agency, the board is responsible for its own administration
in the areas of budget, staffing, maintaining records, systems,
and reporting structure. The chairman of the board is the permanent
head and is responsible for the administrative functions and activities
of the agency.
A Chair, Vice-Chair and one member comprise the full-time membership of the board. The board is supplemented with part-time members who sit on the various working
committees of the board. Board members are appointed by order in council. Minimum qualifications for members are stipulated in the Saskatchewan Municipal Board Member
Qualifications Regulations, 2003. Full-time members are appointed for up to ten-year terms and part-time members for three-year terms. All appointments are subject to
reappointment on the expiry date of the term.
How are members assigned to committee work?
The Chair of the board assigns part-time members and part-time Chairs
to a committee based on workload and specific qualifications required
for individual committee work.